Strategies for Protecting Teen Drivers

Obtaining a driver’s license and learning to drive a car are among the greatest rites of passage into adulthood enjoyed by teenagers. Driving is one of the ultimate symbols of independence, and many of us pleasantly recall our first cars and the freedom they represented.

But older drivers, including parents of those now learning to drive, have learned from experience that our roads are full of dangers, and those dangers are only growing. There are more automobiles and semi-trucks on the roads today than ever before. Even small automobiles have sufficient power to travel at very high rates of speed. It’s natural to worry that young drivers will be easily distracted or that they will encounter dangerous situations for which they are not prepared.

Of course, parents want to protect their children in every way possible. In this article, we’ll discuss the dangers of teen drivers and some strategies for dealing with these dangers.

Teen Drivers Are Dangerous

Some people are surprised to learn that car wrecks are the number one cause of teen death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2,433 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 died in 2016 in motor vehicle crashes. Another 292,742 received treatment in emergency rooms. Every day during that time period, an average of six teens died in a car crash. Of course, these crashes also resulted in death and injury to many non-teenaged passengers and drivers.

What Causes Teen Driver Crashes?

Inexperience - The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute (CHPRI) states that teens completing their learner’s permit period of driving still maintain significant skill deficits. While many think of teen drivers as thrill-seeking and aggressive, crashes are more often caused by errors resulting from inexperience. The chances of making such an error are especially high in the early stages of independent driving.

Distraction - AAA notes that distracted driving is a major problem, comprising a causal factor in almost 60 percent of crashes. AAA cites the following as the most common forms of teen distraction that causes crashes:

  • 15% teen drivers interacting with other passengers
  • 12% cell phone usage
  • 10% looking at something inside the car
  • 9% looking at something outside the car
  • 8% singing or dancing to music
  • 6% grooming activities
  • 6% reaching for something

Strategies for Reducing the Rate of Teen Crashes

Knowing some of the problems causing teen crashes helps all of us in the search for solutions. Below are some steps parents and teens can take to reduce the dangers associated with teen drivers. 

  • Require more training and supervision in the early stages of driving. CHPRI states that “critical errors” made by teens include a failure to scan for and detect hazards; traveling too fast for specific conditions; and being distracted. These are clearly signs of inexperience. Because research shows the chance of crashing decreases more than 67 percent after teens drive independently for 1000-1500 miles, it’s critical to provide additional training in that early period. Driver’s education courses and additional practice with parents before allowing teens to drive independently can help.
  • Parents should model good driving behavior (including not using phones while driving). Kids are always watching.
  • Restrict the number of passengers riding with inexperienced teens.
  • Parents must discuss with teens the use of cell phones and the dangers of distracted driving. Phones should only be used in emergencies.
  • Limit teens’ amount of nighttime driving.
  • Advise teens to pull over if drowsy and never to drive after drinking or using drugs.
  • Instruct teens not to eat while driving.
  • Always know your teen’s driving plans and have your teen check in with you after driving.

Know Your Rights in the Event of an Accident

All drivers owe a duty to their fellow Americans to drive safely. If you or a loved one is injured in a motor vehicle accident, you will likely have questions about your rights. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be glad to answer them for you. We pride ourselves on making Oregon safer for all of our families by holding negligent drivers accountable for their actions.


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